China’s Xi to visit Saudi Arabia to ‘bolster ties’

Initial agreements worth $29bn will be signed during a Saudi Arabian-Chinese summit this week, according to the kingdom’s official news agency.

Chinese President Xi Jinping will make a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia this week, meeting the king and de facto ruler of the world’s biggest oil exporter.

The Chinese leader will arrive on Wednesday for only his third trip abroad since the coronavirus pandemic began and his first to Saudi Arabia since 2016.

The visit followed an invitation from Saudi Arabia’s King Salman “to bolster historic ties and strategic partnership between the two countries”, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said on Tuesday.

Initial agreements worth $29.26bn will be signed during the bilateral summit, SPA said.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed the visit in a brief statement on Wednesday morning. Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said Xi would make a state visit to Saudi Arabia and attend the first China-Arab States Summit and the China-GCC Summit in Riyadh.

The visit comes as China looks to deepen its relationships with countries in the Middle East amid growing strains in its ties with the United States and other Western nations.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman faces Chinese President Xi Jinping across a bank of light and dark pink flowers during a summit in Beijing. Xi and his entourage are sitting along a table on one side and MBS and his entourage on the other. There is a traditional Chinese painting at the back and the flags of Saudi Arabia and China
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman travelled to Beijing in 2019 where he met Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing [File: How Hwee Young/Pool via Reuters]

In an editorial, China’s Global Times, a state-run tabloid, described the China-Arab States summit as “a milestone in the history of China-Arab countries relations”. The paper said that after the “severe impact” of the Arab Spring, the region had a “common desire” to avoid political turmoil and achieve stable growth and was “keenly interested in China’s experience”.

‘Deeper relations’

The summit with Saudi Arabia, chaired by King Salman and attended by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), the kingdom’s de facto ruler, comes after Xi was confirmed for an unprecedented third term as president in October.

China is Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partner and MBS is expected to give Xi a lavish welcome when he lands in Riyadh on Wednesday, a marked contrast to the muted reception given to US President Joe Biden in July.

The visit reflects “much deeper relations developed in recent years” between the two countries, said Ali Shihabi, a Saudi Arabian analyst close to the government.

Source : The Aljazeera News

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